TV Recap: GIRLS, ‘Beach House’

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As of late, the girls of Girls, have been mostly separate, treading their individual paths alone. Besides Shosh and Jessa – whose relationship is mainly due to their current living situation and family ties – the layered dynamics between the gang seems to have faded from focus. Have they grown apart? Are they truly friends anymore? This week, we have answers to both of those burning questions.

Thanks to the ever-hopeful (read: delusional, and borderline psychotic) Marnie Michaels, this episode brings the gang back together for a perfectly-planned getaway in North Fork, Long Island, and incidentally brings any and all tension between them to a head. And it gets ugly. Let’s get into it:

MARNIE’S FANTASY WORLD

As we know by now, Marnie’s world was shattered by her break up with Charlie, and she’s still recovering. She’s struggling for connection, and she’s longing for the past, looking to rekindle the spark of intimate friendship she once shared with Hannah. She’s already gone to embarrassing lengths to bring about this rekindling, and she’s done it with precious little regard for Hannah. (Remember the Rent performance at Hannah’s birthday party?)

But this episode begins with Marnie setting the stage for her grandest attempt to date. We watch as she carefully prepares a beautiful beach house for the arrival of her once close friends. Fresh flowers in each room, and each bed personally designated for Hannah, Shoshanna, Jessa, and herself with a place card. The daily itinerary is set. The meals chosen. Alone in the house, Marnie is at peace, confusing her perfect canvas for a sense of complete control. With the arrival of the gang, however, it’s not long until the plan starts to fall apart. Of course, it’s hard to feel sympathy for someone who so steadfastly refuses to accept the reality of the situation. There was no way this was going to go as planned. She’s so focused on bringing them back to the way they were, she’s completely disregarded who they actually are.

THE STARK CONTRAST OF HANNAH AND MARNIE

Have you ever noticed how vastly different Hannah is from Marnie?

Of course you have. That’s their thing. Marnie likes things to be perfect. Hannah is a shameless hot mess. They are a very unlikely pair of friends who somehow stuck it out and got pretty close before the inevitability of their eroding bonds began to show back in season one. Truly, they have love for one another. But it’s pretty clear they don’t like each other much anymore. Hannah – happily in love – probably would have let the friendship go completely dormant if not for Marnie’s persistence. But somehow they’ve all ended up together in North Fork, Marnie full of unrealistic expectations, and Hannah full of dread. The dichotomy between them is so pronounced throughout the episode, it almost gets tiresome. And so we watch as Marnie – pretty as a picture – waits for the arrival of her friends. Hannah is first off the bus, wearing some hideous jumper and a ridiculous sun hat, announcing “I have to fuckin’ piss so badly I’m going to shit myself.” Class act!

HANNAH INVITES THE PARTY CRASHERS

In town for some grocery shopping, Hannah – in her two-piece bikini – finds herself the unfortunate subject of some passing hecklers who turn out to be none other than Elijah and three of his friends. Whoops! After some initial awkwardness, Hannah and Elijah are remembering the good times (and, of course, forgetting all of the hurt and betrayal and anger). Struck with an epiphany, Hannah decides to invite Elijah and his friends to the beach house to lighten the mood and provide a welcome distraction from Marnie’s overbearing presence.

After Marnie’s initial frustration, it actually becomes a decent party. There are plenty of cocktails and conversation. There is a choreographed dance routine. There is skinny dipping in the pool. And Marnie and Hannah actually have an honest one-on-one healing session. But when the time for Marnie’s perfectly-planned dinner-for-four arrives, the crux of her plan for group healing falls apart, as Elijah and company aren’t going anywhere. Dinner is a disaster, and a very sober Marnie stews while her unwelcome guests make a mockery of her duck breasts.

SHIT GETS REAL AND SHOSH GOES OFF

So after dinner, Marnie is slowly rising to a boil, as she has completely lost control over the proceedings. (Of course, she never had control, but whatevs!) She comes at Hannah, airing her grievances aloud. Dinner was supposed to be their time for honesty! Elijah and his friends quietly clear the room, leaving the four girls alone. Hannah, however, has had enough. She doesn’t feel like being honest. But guess who does? Shoshanna! She’s had a few, and she’s ready to make her opinions known. And while it was initially off-putting to hear someone who’s contributed so little to the conversation suddenly spit truth and fire, girl was on point. So let’s review her observations:

1. Hannah is a narcissist, fascinated by her own life. TRUE.
2. She deserves better friends. TRUE. (To clarify, I don’t believe Shosh is some great prize, but these relationships are not doing her any good.)
3. Jessa is pretentious. TRUE.
4. Hannah is mentally ill and miserable. TECHNICALLY TRUE and OCCASIONALLY TRUE.
5. Marnie is plagued by fear and self-doubt. TRUE.

I guess when Shoshanna gets drunk, the alcohol activates those critical areas in her brain which normally don’t function. Either way, this was her moment, and it was a doozy.

ELIJAH AND PAL

As those four damaged relationships explode in the living room, another ill-fated relationship is just beginning somewhere else in the house.

Earlier in the episode, we meet Elijah’s new boyfriend Pal. Elijah tells Marnie that he thinks he’s in love, and it’s only a matter of time before he tells him. It’s clear, however, at several points in the episode that these two are not meant to be. Hannah tells Elijah that she doesn’t like the way Pal speaks to him. It’s not respectful. Elijah acknowledges this, but says he doesn’t want to break up. She recommends they talk about it.

When they talk about it, Pal is defensive. Elijah mentions that Hannah noticed it. Pal says Hannah is ridiculous, and Elijah – in typical fashion – does not come to her defense. Instead, he confesses his love, which comes as a shock to Pal who starts backpedaling immediately. Blind and desperate, Elijah just blows him instead. Sad, sad, sad.

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It’s all sad, really. The overarching theme is how our desire for connection and friendship often leads us into bad relationships and then keeps us holding on to them. More specifically, these are relationships that seem good – or even great – at first, before simply running their course and devolving into toxic conditions.

I would wager that such ill-fated friendships (both romantic and platonic) are never more prevalent than they are when we’re in our 20s. Because in those years – when we’re beginning to establish our adult identities – we’ve typically left the families we were born to and we’re busy filling the void with friends and lovers. We invest a lot of our emotions into these new “families.” And even when the return on that investment is nil, the prospect of letting go can be scary. It’s only when we’re a bit older and wiser that we learn to quit wasting our energies on the wrong people. But while we’re in our 20s, we generally ignore the writing on the wall, and continue to grasp at straws. Or – if you happen to be Marnie Michaels – you invite your three former besties to a beach house in the North Fork in an attempt to reconnect and heal.

Come back next week for more witty commentary and expert analysis.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I loved this episode! You brought up some great points.

    It was really a treat FINALLY seeing Shoshanna open up. I feel like most of what she says is shallow – even to her – and although she prob knows herself better than the rest of the Girls know *them*selves, we, the viewer, haven’t gotten to know her. And she was totally right in saying the other girls “treat her like a cab driver … have entire conversations” in front of her face.

    The way the use her supporting character is overall nicely done. Although Hannah and Marnie obvs don’t care about her as much, Jessa and Ray are her main connections for us to keep watching her. This is unlike other (most) shows, where someone who wouldn’t realistically be a close friend just always happens to be around the main character. Also, this season seems to be focusing more on them separately, almost in entire episodes.

    I want another one dedicated to more of Shoshanna’s inner-workings. Espesh now that she’s been banging all these dudes we don’t hear about, and getting a “serious” boyfriend. I wonder if she and Marnie will have a showdown.

  2. PS: You are right than Hannah and Marnie are opposites in that way, but I think that’s why they (could) work. The thing that is their problem is that they are both incredibly self-centered and insensitive to other people’s feelings. They are both so selfish and “me, me, me”.

    I want to learn more about the break up with Charlie. It was so sweet when they got back together, and didn’t they only “break up” because the actor wanted to leave the show? If he had stayed, would it have been different for Marnie? I think it would have totally been different, maybe for the a lot of events in this season.

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